Hierophant – Death Siege Review

I was first introduced to Italian noisemongers Hierophant with their 2013 sophomore effort, the provocatively titled Holy Mother: Holy Monster. An absolutely punishing release, it included all the hallmarks of acts like Oathbreaker, Celeste, and Hexis in its blackened hardcore/sludge combo. However, with a cutthroat crusty edge, it forsook all subtlety for punishing vitriol, excruciatingly dense and brutal. Beginning in 2016’s Mass Grave, Hierophant went the way Of Feather and Bone, plumbing the abyssal depths of death metal. Old habits die hard, however, and sludge remains a weapon in these Italians’ arsenal with fifth full-length Death Siege.

And what a weapon it is. It would be reasonable to expect sludge/death fusions like Black Royal or Warcrab, but Hierophant maximizes density for devastating claustrophobia. While firmly rooted in the down-tuned tremolo and hyperactive percussion of OSDM, it’s done so with concrete-thick sludge production and guitar tone, never forsaking speed and energy. Bolstering this unforgiving attack, commanding drums punch through the canvas with the force of a nail gun, while a reverb-laden blackened bark graces the destruction with hateful sermons both vitriolic and ghostly. Ultimately, while Death Siege showcases Hierophant firing on all cylinders, a resounding victory after the mediocre Mass Grave, it showcases more promise than it capitalizes upon.

Listening to Death Siege is like being buried alive. While OSDM is subterranean, dwelling in caverns and twisting passageways, Hierophant gives no such reprieve. Like inhaling tons of earth, tracks are thick and unforgiving, oscillating between passages of blackened death shred and sludge/doom slow-motion devastation. Muddy riffs and magma flow crawls grace “Devil Incarnate,” while “Bloodbath Compendium” revels in its earth-shaking weight in Fuoco Fatuo-esque funeral doom, both tracks letting sludge reach a nearly meditative quality. “Crypt of Existence,” “In Chaos, In Death,” and closer “Nemesis of Thy Mortals” benefit from a decisively blackened razor edge that expands their dense palette beyond sludgy slogs, while the title track cuts loose with nearly war metal intensity with intense solos and march-like plods on steroids. Hierophant manages a suffocating atmosphere with its black and sludge proclivities but never neglects the death metal energy that courses through ever slimy fiber, with a punchy production that rises above Mass Grave in every way. While it would be easy to get lost in the muck of echoey vocals and dense riffs, the percussion’s commanding crispness nonetheless stands as a reliable tether for sanity, ensuring that listeners’ ears are never lost in the wreckage.

Hierophant’s most glaring issues are their periodic songwriting snafus and blurring movement. Passages shift without warning and dynamics are forgotten in favor of sludgy blasting; “Death Siege” is most obvious. It seems to conclude, only to be smacked upside the head with another blackened death riff that immediately fades out again. While already questionable, it also features the hallmarks of cheesy black metal in croaking laughter a la Immortal that makes one blush – not to mention the enthusiastic opening line “DEATH… SIIIEEEEGE.” The title track presents a bit of a dilemma: it’s perhaps the most memorable of the ten tracks, but it does so at the expense of its own integrity, while other tracks have a propensity to sounding too similar. Perhaps nitpicking, openers “Mortem Aeternam” and “Seeds of Vengeance” are misdirects, respectively dwelling in industrial noise and Morbid Angel-esque death metal – merely tied together by its smothering production.

Hierophant’s massive sound is a blessing and a curse. While it sticks out as some of the sludgiest death metal to challenge Mass Worship or Slugdge in sludginess (not necessarily quality), it nonetheless can feel difficult to mine the ore from this pitch-black tunnel. Punishing blackened death riffs and devastating death/doom slogs are funneled through a portal of sludge that never forsakes either. It’s refreshing to see that Hierophant has not lost its vitriol in nine years – feeling both colossal and scathing in equal measure. While its sludgy density loosely masks its shifty songwriting and its consistency can be called into question, Death Siege’s body-slammed-by-a-mountain aesthetic satisfies that masochistic urge to be buried alive.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist Underground Activists
Websites: hierophant.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/hierophantkvlt
Releases Worldwide: August 26th, 2022

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